Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

The college boy babbles excitedly,
testosterone jitters and beer foam greased,
leans towards the busty co-ed,
with high hopes.
The card in his wallet says “One-A,”
the Tet Offensive rages an ocean away.

The bridegroom fumbles knotting his tie,
it takes five tries.

The wife wakes him up,
talks about his damaged aura,
gasping and hacking to the emergency room 3 AM.
Doctor tells him “Croup.”
“Maybe you should get her a psychiatric evaluation.”
Eight months pregnant.

Career hopes rest on his next mission,
but she and the children have to vacation at grandma’s.
He watches their plane disappear up into the blue,
tight throat, heavy heart.
A letter waits for him at home,
“We are not coming back until…”

The kids have been played, fed, bathed; asleep.
She’s gone again the weekend:
transactional therapist college retreat.
Heavy rain, flooded basement, house creaks.
In the dank dark his flashlight shows
twenty feet of rolled foundation.
How much will that cost?
Upstairs, Saturday’s mail unopened:
bank statement, savings, zero balance,
joint account.

The kids are busy, know everything,
no time for the old man.
That’s okay, everything’s stable,
accounts are paid for,
the oldest likes college.
A union organizer now, meeting at noon.
Secretary puts a letter in his mailbox:

She’s a consolation for life in the downslope years.
“Women don’t need men,” she tells him,
“men need women.”
That’s what you think, sweetheart: silent smile.
Next summer at the beach: “I want a baby.”
“Of course.” You always knew,
nature must have its way.
No restoring the sports car now,
keep your zen,
maybe she’ll still love you in twenty years.

Mother calls, father’s had a heart attack.
He leaves for the long drive in the rain.
The wipers break, scratch the windshield at eye level,
electrics are spotty.
How will I take care of her now?

Doctor gives him the news,
prescriptions, change your life,
worry to maximize,
and it costs.
But dependents have all their demands.
You can’t be an artist and have a family.
At least now I know it doesn’t really matter.
So, relax and enjoy.
You can’t make time, you can only savor it,
or lose it.
Life belongs to the alert,
peace belongs to the knowing.

29 November 2016


1 thought on “Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

  1. Rings of truth, unlike the couple-selfies that keep smiling through false teeth, celebrating wedding anniversaries, silver or gold, never tin.

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